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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Critical Planning

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Critical Planning is published annually by the students of the Department of Urban Planning in the Luskin School of Public Affairs in the University of California Los Angeles.

Critical Planning welcomes article submissions from students, scholars and professionals that demonstrate a critical approach to the study of cities and regions.

Just Futures

Issue cover
Cover Caption: Indigenous people and supporters march down EixoMonumental towards the National Congress buildings (visible in the distance) in Brazil’s capital city, Brasilia. Thousands of people attended the Acampamento TerraLivre (ATL – “Free Earth Camp”) in 2022 after two yearsof virtual ATL events — terrible years in which many Indigenous communities faced losses from COVID-19 and a political climate of increased aggression, anti-Indigenous policies, and disenfranchisement under the current Bolsonaro government. The ATL has become the most important date on the calendar for Indigenous groups, who are highly organized in their campaigns for political representation after years of quiet resistance in the rural areas.
Abolitionists, activists, and artists have long conjured just futures, or visions that serve as alternatives tothe unjust social and material conditions of the world. Social movements are galvanized by such visions astemplates for dismantling the carceral, patriarchal, fascist, and other imperial manifestations of power. Urban planning is always implicated in questions of the future, yet how we leverage planning tools to create the just world we want to live in requires us to think both within the field of planning and beyond it, to undo planning and recreate it. To think about planning for just futures requires reimagining planning itself. The contributions to this volume elucidate and elevate practices of and towards just futures by interrogating the boundaries of planning, whether as a profession, as a field of scholarship, or as an insurgent practice. Volume 26 is composed of narrative pieces, including commentaries, experimental essays, and traditional research articles, as well as a range of multimedia, including illustrations, speculative renderings, a political cartoon, and a podcast. Taken together, the submissions challenge conventional planning perspectives and practices and encourage the reader to consider what just futures might look, feel, and taste like, for humans and more.


The El Segundo Refinery: Whiteness, Imperialist Expansion and Extractive Infrastructures

Planning for racially just futures requires reckoning with and unlearning practices of whiteness embedded within histories and theories of planning. Through archival and policy research, this historical-structural analysis identifies the El Segundo Chevron oil refinery as a center of racial capitalism and imperialism. The refinery’s formation in 1911 was not only enabled by racially exclusive policy, but also shaped the City of El Segundo through the consolidation of corporate political power at the local level. Sites of extraction, from Los Angeles to the Amazon, reveal historic and ongoing injustices, which built environment disciplines must confront in order to move forward in solidarity.

The Pedagogy of Talking Back: Challenging the Modernist Ideologies of the Murphy Sculpture Garden Through Contemporary Definitions and Practices of Public Art

Though widely celebrated as a masterpiece, the Murphy Sculpture Garden raises important questions about the role of art in public space today. How do we define public art? When is it art, and what exactly makes it public? Growing scholarship in urban studies, fine art, historical preservation, and social sciences suggests that the paradigms for public art are shifting. While societal values and environmental circumstances change with time, many existing public artworks endure, unchanged and unchallenged, as if frozen in perpetuity. The Murphy Sculpture Garden cannot be experienced or understood as it was conceived almost 60 years ago. Using the sculpture garden as a case study, this article examines emerging theories, competing definitions, key paradigms, and ongoing tensions in the discourse of public art.

The Playboy Mansion Must Be Destroyed

A just future is within reach for UCLA’s Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. To achieve this end, the Playboy Mansion must be destroyed. This essay will present the Mansion’s history to explain why in terms of socio-sexual justice, then recommend how to execute demolition in order to avoid repeating the mistakes that have left Westwood’s residential space so misallocated. Neither private nor public agencies have the capacity to mark the Mansion for demolition without re-enclosing this property for the purposes of elites. Only the people themselves can destroy the Playboy Mansion in a way that will guarantee this land’s future uses as a common good.

American Cities Made and Remembered

Everything is a line. Every boundary, bridge, freeway and river. Yet these lines are not ours — they have been drawn for us, and they shape the policies that determine our lives. While the drawing of lines is inherently consequential, it is often difficult to isolate, identify or hold accountable their individual authors. The borders and policies dictated by these lines are the continuation of centuries-old colonial systems that keep white supremacist power structures firmly in place.

Evaluating Meaningful Engagement Under Environmental Justice Mandates: A Case Study of California’s SB1000 Implementation in Santa Ana

California Senate Bill 1000 (2016) requires that general plans include environmental justice strategies and policies that address the needs of Disadvantaged Communities (DACs). This article draws upon principles for engagement developed by environmental justice activists to explore Santa Ana’s 2014-2020 general plan update and understand whether SB1000 contributed to meaningful engagement in DACs. A review of planning documents and interviews with key informants reveals that the initial general plan framework was captured by NIMBYs and that the City was unable to pivot to meet SB1000 mandates. Moreover, the City resisted activist and State demands to halt general plan adoption amid COVID-19. Ultimately, in the case of Santa Ana, SB1000 has not led to meaningful engagement with disadvantaged communities.

Changing the Plan: How “Feminist Cities” and Feminist Political Ecology Can Inform More Equitable and Climate- Just City Planning Practice

This essay seeks to identify “feminist cities” and intersectional feminist-informed planning practice as one framework to achieve climate justice in an urban planning context. Planning for a climate-changed future will require an intent focus on adaptability and a critical, intersectional feminist approach, both in our planning for climate impacts and our ability to adapt to new and changing urban problems. By centering climate-feminist solutions in our planning efforts, we can embrace transformational planning models and dare to imagine a future worth planning for.

The Water Impacts of Establishing an Equitable Tree Canopy for Los Angeles

Extreme heat as a result of climate change is already being felt in Los Angeles and will only increase throughout the century. Not all residents of Los Angeles feel these effects equally. Shaded areas provide valuable relief from the heat, but the shade provided by street trees has historically been concentrated in certain communities and excluded from others. To create a just future in the face of climate change, all communities must have the resources to maintain habitable conditions, including shade trees. Establishing the number of trees required to build an equitable tree canopy for the city requires another scarce resource: water. This paper analyzes the amount of water and associated impacts required to establish an equitable tree canopy in Los Angeles through a lens of distributive justice. I conclude that, from a water standpoint, the benefits of increased tree canopy outweigh the energy, financial, and supply costs needed to achieve a more equitable tree canopy.

A Planning Mixtape: Black Healing (Matters), Housing, and the Prison Nation

The ability to easily secure housing and pass it down to accumulate generational wealth is a luxury that white descendants have long enjoyed — yet it has all but escaped their Black counterparts. In an effort to acknowledge the challenges facing Black people, particularly Black women historically and to the present day, this essay provides an analysis through a Black feminist lens and serves as a piece of academic activism. Utilizing the methodology of Black Girl Cartography, concern is cited specifically for the ways in which Black women are situated in place and space. To that end, this essay focuses on housing as a theme and addresses the subtopics of neighborhood, substandard housing, housing instability, and housing affordability as interventions.